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Ohio Right to Work Amendment: Right policy, wrong time.

It’s been over two weeks since Ohioans rejected the reasonable government union reforms in Issue 2. Big Labor poured over $30 million into a campaign to persuade voters to stay with the status quo. But they also rejected a whopping 78% of school levies that requested additional funds to pay for the ever increasing costs of public union benefits. So in the end, the unions convinced voters that laying off more public workers is preferable to asking them to contribute a bit more to their own benefits.

Not two days later, there was already talk of a new union related referendum. Chris Littleton held a press conference to announce an initiative to amend the Ohio Constitution to make Ohio a “right to work” state.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The group of conservatives and Tea Party activists that won a landslide victory on Tuesday with Ohio’s “healthcare freedom” amendment wants to come back to voters with a new proposal — a “right-to-work” initiative.

Dubbed the “Ohio Workplace Freedom Amendment,” the issue would place into the Ohio Constitution a ban on requiring Ohioans to join a union as a condition of employment.

Littleton was also one of the key organizers behind Issue 3, which won easily, with fully 66% of voters rejecting forced healthcare in Ohio, despite an energized and mobilized Democratic turnout against Issue 2. It was a remarkable effort that several of us at 3BP were involved with, as well. A true grassroots only effort, there was no TV advertising on either side, and certainly almost no money behind the campaign. Littleton and the countless others are to be commended for their work. One might think that such a resounding victory means that we should forge full steam ahead on getting the right-to-work amendment on the 2012 ballot. One would be wrong.

Now, make no mistake, we agree 100% that Ohio would be better off if its citizens were not forced into unions as a condition of employment at thousands of employers across the state. Governor John Kasich is tirelessly working to make Ohio more attractive to business, and to lure more employers to Ohio. It’s the reason he was elected, and in less than a year, he is already off to a great start, with several announcements of the creation of new permanent jobs coming in just the last week. No doubt about it, Ohio becoming a RTW state would make that job orders of magnitude easier to accomplish.

But now is not the right time.  Putting this issue on the 2012 ballot could be a disaster.

Ohio conservatives, we must put our focus for 2012 solely on defeating Barack Obama and Sherrod Brown.  In this election, we must focus on the national issues of our federal government’s hyper-spending and crushing debt.  The only way to change the disastrous course we are currently on is to put the Senate under Republican control, and to put a Republican in the White House.  That must be our first priority, not state-level issues.  That is where all of our resources must go.

It’s not just a matter of divided attention, either.  The placement of another union related issue on the ballot could tip the scales in favor of Obama winning Ohio, and thus winning reelection.  Yes, we believe that placing the RTW referendum on the 2012 ballot could actually result in the reelection of Barack Obama, even if the amendment was approved.  How?  You just watched it happen with Issue 2. 

Unions have at their disposal hundreds of millions of dollars that they forcibly take from members to enact their political agenda.  We saw them pour $30 million into a campaign to fight legislation that only affected public-sector unions.  What do you think they will do against a proposed law that would affect ALL unions in Ohio?  The out-of-state money will come gushing in even heavier.  And it will give discouraged and apathetic Democrats a reason to go out and vote.

Consider this: right now our chances of beating Obama in Ohio look promising.  His disastrous presidency and ridiculous policies have not worked.  Currently, his approval rating in Ohio is at 41%, with 49% disapproval.  But what’s most important here is the enthusiasm gap.  Ohio voters were asked if they were more or less enthusiastic about voting in the 2012 presidential election, compared to past presidential elections.

Of the Ohio Republicans, 41% say they are more excited, while only 15% said they are less so.  We’ll call that a +26 on the “enthusiasm index”.  How do Ohio Democrats feel about voting next year?  Much less excited.  Only 22% are more enthusiastic, while 25% as less so, for a -3 on the index.  That’s a total difference of 29 points!  That’s excellent news for not only the GOP nominee, but for Josh Mandel, as well.  A victory for Mandel over Sherrod Brown very well could mean the difference in the U.S. Senate.

Do we really want to give Democrats a reason to be excited about 2012?  Do we really want to give the Ohio Democratic Party and national unions another vehicle with which to fire up their GOTV machine for President Downgrade?  We don’t!

Don’t get me wrong.  Despite the results of Issue 2, I believe that the RTW amendment has a good chance of passing in Ohio.  Issue 2 failed partly because Senate Bill 5 was a big, complicated and confusing bill.  Most Ohioans didn’t understand it and it was so big that it was easy for unions to spread misinformation about it.  Because, seriously, who was actually going to sit down and read through its hundreds of pages?  By contrast, the Right-to-Work amendment is short and simple.  You either agree that every person should have the choice on whether to personally join a union or not, or you don’t.  It fits on one page and that’s it, just like Issue 3 was.  It’s hard to argue against that, just like it was hard to argue against whether you should be forced to buy health insurance. 

My point is, that whether the RTW amendment passed or failed, it will certainly drive more Democrat-friendly voters out to the polls, at the exact wrong time for America.  As America’s foremost bellwether state, we are used to having an enormous amount of influence in presidential elections.  No Republican has ever been elected without winning Ohio.  That influence we have as a state also comes with consequences and responsibilities.  To do anything to jeopardize Barack Obama’s glorious defeat in Ohio would be foolish.

We cannot support putting the Workplace Freedom Amendment on the ballot in 2012.  It would be the best news Obama got out of Ohio in a long time.  If asked to sign the petition, politely decline and tell the person to come back for your support in August, beyond the July deadline to put the referendum up in 2012.  Let’s put America first, kick Obama and Brown out of office, and then come back to fixing Ohio in 2013.  We can wait the extra year.  We can’t risk 4 more years of what Obama/Brown are doing to America and Ohio.

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Third Base Politics is an Ohio-centric conservative blog that has been featured at Hot Air, National Review, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and others.


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